Ever heard of the Entrepreneurs Forum or the American Society of Inventors? I hadn’t until recently, when I spoke on a panel session at their monthly meeting held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Both are terrific organizations.
Our panel’s topic: Commercializing Your Intellectual Property. The session was moderated by Frank Taney of Buchanan Ingersoll (friend, and now famous lawyer for his unusual Second Life prosecution case). I was joined on the panel by Adam Rosen (CEO of k-Technology Corp) and Marilyn Montross (VP at QVC).
So, how do you commercialize your IP, and what are some of the tips of the trade, so-to-speak? Below are a few of my talking points from last night’s engaging session.
Important factors to consider:
- Understand what your core strengths are and find others who can help you with the other important pieces. Don’t try to do it all yourself – you’ll likely drive yourself crazy. There are plenty of online resources that can help.
- Find good legal counsel. You don’t have to spend a lot to get basic guidance, and the best lawyers are very well connected.
- Regarding patents, start the provisional route. It is far cheaper, and gives you time to really get your business going. BUT (and this is a big but), it’s probably best to have legal counsel help write your provisional. Why? Because if you improperly write a provisional application, it may be worthless. And, it is not too expensive having legal help with a provisional. I know a few firms that will do one for under $500.
Lessons learned (the hard way):
- Don’t be too over-protective nor under-protective of your intellectual property. There’s a fine-line you need to walk there.
- Just because you can patent something doesn’t mean you can make money from it – and not just because of market limitations, but because of legal issues.
- If you have a “great” idea for which there is absolutely no competition, then be wary, be very wary.
Resources that might help:
- United States Patient and Trademark Office is a must in order to learn who is doing what related to your (potential) invention. While reading patents can be incredibly boring, there are some great nuggets to be gleaned. I’ve yet to read someone else’s patent application that didn’t lead me to think of potential spin off ideas.
- Innocentive – great for people who want to create solutions for challenges that others pose – and make some money from it.
- Great books: The Lean Startup (Eric Reis); The Art of the Start (Guy Kawasaki); The 4-Hour Workweek (Tim Ferriss); Never Eat Alone (Keith Ferrazzi).
- Good marketing trumps even great products.
- Pay no attention to the “naysayers” – and there are plenty of them. Yes, you want to be sensitive to market trends, product viability, barriers to entry, and all those sorts of things. But at the end of the day, it will be your passion/drive coupled with your network that will get your through.
The time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets. — Baron Rothschild
Well, there’s plenty of blood out there [2009 recession]. Use this opportunity to make your mark.